I have been discussing a more intimate approach to meditation here on WordPress.  Meditation or mindfulness is the key to self-evolution from a spiritual and personal level which is why I am spending so much time on the subject this week. To be mindful of the present, sans of ego is where the true magic arises. It is within those gaps of ego driven thoughts that reveals the wisdom, love and energy that is our True Nature. Earlier, we began with Meditation Part I. and Meditation Part II., where we discussed mindfulness as tool for self-actualization.  A good step forward is to label all the incessant thoughts that careen through our heads as guests: Treat them all neutral and do not get frustrated by the endless trail of thoughts; in fact, find amazement in how intricate and vast the mind is and find faith and energy that you are the master of this domain.  There are three areas or facets of meditation that I am going to discuss next:

Set and Setting: Finding time to meditate, selecting a quiet place to meditate. Being mindful of posture, rhythmic breathing and labeling our incessant thoughts as guests. Above all do not get frustrated. When your mind gets side tracked, simply refocus and move forward, not backward.

Deepening and Appreciation: Once thoughts and rhythmic breathing become a back drop to the experience; a mantra and, or primary meditative focus becomes the main emphasis. Further, find confidence and energy in the mindfulness of the experience.

Exit and Daily Life Practice: Take the meditative session and experience into daily life. Continue to be mindful and aware throughout the day.

Set and Focus

To begin any meditation, you need to set aside a time when there will be the least amount of distraction. Any amount of time is acceptable for meditating. A longer session (30-60 minutes) is ideal, but even five minutes a day is better than not meditating at all. Busy lives always present unforeseen challenges that make it difficult to find a time, so carving out a consistent time slot in your schedule just dedicated to meditation is often best. I have personally found that the best time to meditate is early in the morning right after waking up. The mind is calm and still in a sedated state. As the day wears on, our minds become inundated with thoughts, concerns, fears, and fantasies that make meditation a little more challenging. Still, many find a meditation session before bedtime peaceful and therapeutic. As you settle into a regular practice, soon you will find a time that is better suited to your lifestyle.

You can meditate almost anywhere. The most successful and deep meditations occur when you are stationary and in a seated position. Many practitioners suggest sitting upright with legs crossed in the lotus position with your hands and arms relaxed and outward on your legs. I encourage you to find any comfortable seated position. It can include a chair or couch with a comfortable back. The objective is to feel comfortable so you do not feel confined or fidgety and are able to focus on your inner-self. If you find a chair more comfortable than the lotus position then I recommend placing your feet flat on the floor to feel grounded and stable. However if you are most comfortable sitting, allow your arms to fall relaxed onto your legs with your hands outstretched and open. This posture is symbolic to quantum energy – free and flowing – and the openness demonstrates that you have no fear, or at least do not let fear dictate your actions and feelings. Comfortable and relaxed, with arms outstretched and hands open; you are now ready to attract positive energy and proactive thoughts.

As you sit, even if aided by a chair, try to keep your spine straight. This will help you stay alert and will also help you avoid falling asleep. I suggest closing your eyes at first to avoid distraction in your immediate surroundings. As you become more skilled in your meditation practice, it is fine to meditate with eyes open – in fact many prefer it (assuming there are no visual elements like a television to stray your attention).

Now that you are physically “set”, it is time to “focus” on beginning a meditation session. One common misconception is that meditation is about clearing all of the thoughts in your head. The meditative focus, however, is on the thoughts that come and go in our minds.  Thoughts naturally occur and are a fundamental action of the mind. It is virtually impossible to stop the process. The art of meditation is to slow thoughts and lengthen the gap between them so that our mind is not awash with chaos, stress, and anxiety. Meditation is about finding the space between thoughts and focusing on its peace.

Start with a rhythmic breathing pattern. If you are feeling a little stressed or silly about meditating for the first time, relax and remember that people have been meditating for thousands of years. Breathe slowly and deeply into your abdomen, pushing your diaphragm down into your stomach. Try to hold a deep breath for a moment and then slowly release the air out, also releasing stress and negative feelings. Continue this until you feel comfortable breathing in a more usual pattern. Your mental focus should be entirely on your breathing patterns. You should feel more relaxed and grounded after this. The breath connects the body to the mind. Inhale and feel the weight of the air in your lungs. Exhale and feel all the stress and weight leave you.

It may be helpful to say “in” as you breathe in and “out” as you breathe out. Use this as your mantra for the first exercise. A mantra is a word or group of words that can assist in keeping your mind focused on the moment. As you continue to breathe in and out, you will most likely notice random thoughts that come and go. You may experience feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant. Just simply notice them and allow them to pass along. Refocus on your new mantra, “in…out,” and treat every thought and feeling that enters your mind the same – as if they were just guests traveling through space and time. Continue to do this for at least twenty minutes. It is always fine to just return to the breathing pattern if your mind wanders away too far. Above all, just relax and settle into the experience, whatever it may be.

Fight the urge to get up or quit. During your meditation, you may feel that the endless thoughts and lack of focus is a sign of a failed session. This is not true as there is no such thing as a failed session. Any thoughts, feelings and emotions you sense are all part of the meditative experience – coupled with rhythmic breathing; meditation is any experience that unfolds before you. Just settle into the experience no matter the outcome or result. Thoughts will continue to bounce into your head one after another. This is totally normal. Simply just try to be mindful of the thought processes. Think of yourself as an observer with no real link or connection to the thoughts. You may have to refocus a hundred times or more during a twenty minute session. Again, that is totally normal. An early meditation exercise that is helpful is to continue your breathing patterns, and as your thoughts race through your mind, visualize trying to grab the thoughts with your hands. As soon as you mentally grab a thought, it often disappears. Where did it go? This will get you back on track with your breathing and also give you a glimpse of all the space that is in your mind. So much space for thoughts.

Another useful early meditation tool is to become mindful of your body and immediate surroundings. While still focusing on your breathing, direct your internal attention to your toes. Can you feel them? How do they feel? I know it sounds odd, but keep at it. While still focusing on your breath, work your way up your body. Visualize your legs and internally feel them. Is there pain or discomfort? Do they feel relaxed and at peace?  Move up to your stomach and lungs, your shoulders and neck, your arms and fingers. Take your time and be open to the experience of being mindful of your body. Get in tune with your body and the internal feelings you may be sensing. Maybe you’re hungry or you feel a small pain in your back. Maybe you can hear your own heartbeat, only it sounds like it’s coming from your brain. Now, turn to your surroundings. Listen for creaks in the floor and birds outside. Start cataloguing all of your outward sensory perceptions. Please remember to always return to your breathing pattern. This exercise helps gain clarity and is an excellent way to begin a meditation as it tends to calm and sharpen the mind.

To aid in curbing thoughts about when your meditation will end or how long you’ve been at it, set a timer or a watch, though its alarm should be subtle and not jerk you abruptly from your session. You can also try guided or meditative music and use the end of a particular song as your signal to end your meditation. There are even special meditation timers and applications available for computers and smart phones that can assist in the meditative process.

Your brain is like any other muscle in your body. The more you use it and exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Meditative exercises will strengthen your brain’s capacity and stability. From the endless stream of thoughts, great clarity and structure will arise. The art of meditation will stretch those gaps between thoughts, allowing for a deeper world awareness to take hold. Even if you consider your first few meditations unsuccessful because you felt disturbed or had a lot on your mind, there is still much to be gained from any kind of meditative practice. It is important that you don’t give up or decide that meditation is not a good tool for you. Over the course of time, meditation will strengthen and stabilize your mind and also give you a greater ability to control your moods and emotions.

Up next – Deepening and Appreciation…

What is Meditation exactly?

John C. Bader